Dynamic Dozen: The Stanford student-athletes who took on Tokyo

Sept. 15, 2021, 12:32 p.m.

Stanford sent 57 former, current or affiliated athletes to Tokyo to compete on the world stage at the 2020 Olympic Games. Between the Opening Ceremony on July 23 and the Closing Ceremony on Aug. 8, Stanford captured 26 medals — more than any university in the country and just one shy of the school-record 27 earned by Cardinal athletes at the 2016 Rio Games. All but two of the Cardinal’s medals were claimed for Team USA, where Stanford’s 35 members stood as the largest plurality from any university. An impressive 12 of Stanford’s competitors in Tokyo still hold undergraduate status on the Farm: some are on leaves of absence, some are current student-athletes and others are incoming frosh. Keep reading to learn who’s who on Stanford’s newest list of Olympians!

Brody Malone, Gymnastics (USA) 

The two-time defending NCAA all-around champion, rising senior Brody Malone represented the USA as the top performer in the men’s all-around at the Olympic trials. As Malone advanced to finals in the team, all-around and horizontal bar event, Team USA looked to earn a medal in the team event for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The team ultimately finished in fifth place, and Malone placed 10th in the all-around, just two spots ahead of teammate Sam Mikulak.

A highlight of Malone’s strong performance in the final was his parallel bars mount, submitted by the gymnast as an original element to be dubbed “The Malone” in the Code of Points. Malone narrowly missed a medal; his fourth-place mark represents the fifth-straight Olympics in which the USA men’s gymnastics team has logged a finisher among the top five in the event.

On the Farm, Malone enters his senior year, working toward a degree in Management Science and Engineering. During his three seasons at Stanford, Malone has earned MPSF Gymnast of the Year honors three times. He is a five-time individual NCAA National Champion — twice in the all-around and high bar and once in the floor event — as well as a 12-time NCAA All-American.

Alberto Mestre, Swimming (Venezuela)

Two-time All-American Alberto Mestre qualified for the Olympics in two events and finished top-15 in the 50m freestyle and top-35 in the 100m freestyle.

In his signature event, the 50m freestyle, he finished fourth and qualified for the semifinals. His time of 21.96 was just 0.03 seconds shy of the Venezuelan national record of 21.93 that he set in his nation’s Olympic Trials. In the 50m freestyle semifinal, his time of 22.22 placed him seventh in his heat and 15th overall, but did not qualify him for the event’s finals.

The Tokyo Olympics were somewhat of a family affair for the Mestre’s — Alberto’s brother Alfonso, who swims for the University of Florida, also competed. Alfonso swam in the 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle, placing top-16 in both races. The Mestre’s father, Alberto Sr., was also an Olympic legend in the 1980s, qualifying for the games at just 15 years old. Alberto Sr., while never earning an Olympic medal, finished top-six in both of his events at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Andrei Minakov, Swimming (Russian Olympic Committee)

19-year-old Andrei Minakov competed in four events at his first Olympics, and nearly medaled in two of them. He first swam the 4x100m freestyle relay, where the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) took seventh overall in the finals with a time of 3:12.20. Following the relay races, Minakov competed in the 100m freestyle, finishing fifth in the semifinals, which was not enough to make it to the event finals.

In the 100m butterfly, his performances in the first round and semifinals earned him a spot in the finals. With a time of 50.88, Minakov finished fourth, and was just 0.14 seconds away from winning an Olympic medal — Noe Ponti of Switzerland finished third in 50.74. The next day in the 4x100m medley relay, the ROC finished in 3:29.22 and took fourth place, just behind third-place Italy, whose team finished in 3:29.17. 

Minakov will begin his swimming career at Stanford in the fall after opting out of last season to train for the Olympics. He will bring plenty of international competition experience to the Farm after competing at the Olympics, the 2019 World Championships and the 2019 World Junior Championships.

Ron Polonsky, Swimming (Israel)

Ron Polonsky swam in three events in his first Olympics, and will arrive on the Farm next year to start his career at Stanford. In Tokyo, his first event was the 400m individual medley. He finished third in Heat 1 with a time of 4:21.50; his time, however, did not qualify him for the next round. In the 200m breaststroke, he finished fifth place in Heat 2, but his time of 2:12.71 did not carry him to the semifinals. In Polonsky’s final event, the 200m individual medley, he finished fourth in Heat 3 in 1:58.95, but did not turn in one of the 16 fastest times that would have qualified him for the semifinals.

Like Minakov, Polonsky will bring a wealth of international experience to the Farm next season. He swam four events at the 2021 European Championships and four more events at the 2019 World Junior Championships, where he finished fourth in the 200m individual medley.

Aria Fischer, Water Polo (USA)

After completing two seasons with Stanford women’s water polo, Aria Fischer stepped away from the team for two consecutive seasons to train with the USA national team. Tokyo 2020 marks the second time Fischer has competed in the prestigious competition. At Rio 2016, she became the youngest female team sport athlete in American Olympic history to earn gold.

This time around, two goals from Fischer in the quarterfinals helped Team USA cruise past Canada in 16-5 fashion. Fischer continued her scoring streak into the semifinals against the Russian Olympic Committee, adding one goal for Team USA in the 15-11 victory. She netted two more in the Gold Medal Game to help guarantee a 14-5 dominant victory over Spain and the third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event.

Before dazzling Tokyo, Fischer was just as successful on the Farm. As a freshman in 2018, she scored in 20 games, recording multiple goals in 10 of them and ranking 13th in the MPSF at the close of the season in goals per game, with 1.46. Her 58 total goals the following season were the second most by a member of the Cardinal squad in 2019, and 12 goals by Fischer at the NCAA Championships helped lead Stanford to a national title. On Stanford women’s water polo’s 2021 roster, Fischer is a rising junior majoring in Creative Writing.

Makenzie Fischer, Water Polo (USA) 

Mackenzie Fischer completed three seasons with the Cardinal before sitting out for two to train, alongside her younger sister Aria. She remained a serious offensive threat for Team USA throughout the Games, recording two goals against Hungary and the Russian Olympic Committee. Scoring in the semifinals and the Gold Medal Game brought her Olympic total to 14 goals overall. Tokyo 2020 marks Fischer’s second time bringing home the gold; she was also a member of 2016 gold-medal Team USA.

Fischer will be a senior on the Cardinal squad upon her return to Stanford. During her junior season in 2019, Fischer averaged a league-high 3.50 goals per game and recorded a career-high 84 goals, good enough for second-highest in Stanford history. Before taking leave from Stanford, Fischer declared a major in Mechanical Engineering. 

Brooke Forde, Swimming (USA)

A four-time individual NCAA national champion, two-time team national champion and 15-time All-American at Stanford, Brooke Forde ended her first Olympics with a silver medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay. Forde anchored the relay team in the semifinals as they swam to first place in the first heat with a time of 7:47.57. Katie Ledecky ’20 subbed in for Forde in the finals as the American relay team finished second, just four-tenths of a second behind China, with a time of 7:40.73, setting an American record and becoming one of three teams in the race to break the former 800m relay world record.

Forde’s father, Pat — a writer for Sports Illustrated who attended the Olympics as a journalist — documented Brooke’s challenging journey to the Olympics with two narrative articles for the outlet. During the early months of the pandemic, she faced difficulties finding pools in which to to train, and the college swim season happened months later than it normally would. Despite multiple COVID-19 scares and a laborious lead-up to the Olympic Trials, Forde still managed to swim the fastest 200m split of her life at the Games and come home with a silver medal.

Torri Huske, Swimming (USA)

Torri Huske has yet to compete for the Cardinal but will bring a silver medal and Olympic experience in three races to the Farm. She nearly won a medal in her first race, the 100m butterfly — after holding the lead in the finals, she ultimately dropped back to fourth place and finished in 55.73. She missed out on the bronze medal by 0.01 seconds and was just 0.14 seconds behind Margaret Macneil of Canada, the race’s winner. Huske’s second final was in the mixed 4x100m medley relay, where team USA took fifth in 3:40.58. Her last race proved to be her best race, as Huske and the rest of the women’s 4x100m medley relay team — including fellow Stanford swimmer Regan Smith — finished second. The team’s time of 3:51.73 broke the previous Olympic record, but Australia now holds the Olympic record after winning the event in 3:51.60.

The Arlington native will also come to the Farm as the American record-holder in the 100m butterfly. At the Olympic trials final, her time of 55.66 broke the American record she had set the previous day, and was also the third-fastest time ever recorded in the event worldwide.

Taylor Ruck, Swimming (Canada) 

Taylor Ruck competed just one full season for the Cardinal before taking an Olympic redshirt in 2019-20 to train for the Games and an additional redshirt season during 2020-21. She followed up her 100m back performances with success in the 200m back; Ruck cruised through both the trials and semifinals to secure sixth place in the finals, with a time of 2:08.24. Ruck received a silver medal as part of Canada’s 4×100-meter free relay team after having swum in the trials round. Ruck also competed in the 4×100-meter medley relay prelims for Team Canada, earning a bronze medal following the team’s performance in the finals.

Lindi Schroeder, Synchronized Swimming (USA) 

Lindi Schroeder is another athlete for the Cardinal who competed in the Olympics before competing for Stanford. Schroeder and synchro partner Anita Alvarez, a two-time Olympian who turned pro after high school, finished 13th overall in the duet competition. Schroeder and Alvarez began competing together in 2018 after Alvarez’s partner from the 2016 Olympics retired. The duo sat in 13th place after scoring 86.5333 points in the free routine preliminary, and held that spot through the technical routine after scoring 86.1960, for a total of 172.7293.

Regan Smith, Swimming (USA)

Regan Smith took the past year off from college to train for the Olympics, and it paid off — three medals in four events. In the 100m backstroke — one of her signature events — she placed third with a time of 58.05, not even six-tenths of a second behind champion and Olympic record holder Kaylee McKeown of Australia. In Smith’s second event, she earned a silver medal in the 200m butterfly, again finishing just behind another now–Olympic record holder — this time, Yufei Zhang from China.

Her third event was the only one she didn’t bring home a medal in. The mixed 4x100m medley relay team from the United States finished fifth in 3:40.50, missing a medal by a wide margin of nearly two seconds. Even so, she had one more chance at another medal in the women’s 4x100m medley relay. Swimming as part of the same relay as Huske, Team USA took second with a time of 3:51.73 to break the Olympic record along.

Smith, one of the top swimming prospects in recent memory, will join a Cardinal team next year looking for yet another NCAA title in 2021. As a 17-year-old at the 2019 World Championships, she broke two world records and won one gold medal, and she has only moved up from there. After adding Smith and Huske, as well as others, the Cardinal have high hopes to bring more national championships back to the Farm next season and beyond. 

Sze En Tan, Gymnastics (Singapore)

Sze En Tan competed for Singapore in the qualifying rounds of the balance beam and floor exercise in the artistic gymnastics competition. She scored 11.033 on the balance beam and 11.833 on the floor exercise, but ultimately did not place among the top eight in either competition to advance to the event’s finals.

As only the second gymnast from Singapore to compete in an Olympic Games, the 20-year-old will return to the Farm for her sophomore season at Stanford. As a freshman with the Cardinal, she competed on the beam at the Pac-12 Championships and was named a WCGA Scholastic All-American at the conclusion of the season.

Sofia Scekic '22 is a former managing editor for the sports section. She is from Wisconsin and is studying Public Policy. An avid Green Bay Packers fan, she has watched nearly every game for the past nine years. Contact her at sscekic 'at' stanforddaily.com.Savanna Stewart is a managing editor in the Sports section. She is a junior from Twin Bridges, Montana studying Political Science and Communication and enjoys running and playing basketball. Contact her at sstewart 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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